23 Jun, 2011

Government U-turn on listening as Clarke rushes unfair legislation through parliament

The Law Society has today (23rd June) expressed outrage at Government plans to fast-track legislation that will disadvantage the most poor and vulnerable.
A Second Reading of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has been scheduled for Wednesday July 29.

Law Society President Linda Lee said: “The Government is hell bent on introducing a piece of legislation that will increase crime, weaken social cohesion and cost taxpayers more than it cuts.

“The Government has failed to consider alternative savings identified by the Law Society which would make a bigger contribution to cutting the deficit than without the need to remove civil legal aid from hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in society.  

“This is a Government that is running scared of proper scrutiny and debate. They are fasting the bill through parliament to silence the public. In recent history legislation has only been fast-tracked five times. This has been for terrorism legislation, economic and northern Irish law.

“Just last week the Prime Minister David Cameron said in a press conference: ‘What’s the point of publishing a green paper or white paper if you don’t listen to what people say? If you heard of a way to make your policy better and did nothing about it that’s not strength, that’s not leadership.’”

“The Prime Minister has gone back on those words today by ignoring Parliamentary convention and rushing through a Bill that will end civil legal aid for the vast majority of problems that need legal advice.

“We say to him: It doesn’t have to be tough. The Law Society’s alternative savings make it easy for the Government to save civil legal aid and make a bigger contribution to reducing the deficit than the MoJ plan they have toed themselves to.”

In the 2008-09 Report of the House of Lords Committee on the Constitution, the Government at the time responded: “The Government firmly believes that all members of both Houses are entitled to a full explanation of why a piece of legislation is being proposed for fast tracking; and we would expect to be held account for its timetabling. Ministers remain prepared to justify the need for any expedition to the House, including covering those issues set out in the Committee’s Report.”
The Law Society has identified £384 million in alternative annual savings – £34 million more than the Ministry of Justice will save by abolishing more categories of civil legal aid. The Law Society’s alternative savings include Capping fees so no individual can earn a personal income of more than £250,000 in a year from legal aid, saving £16 million a year.

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